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Microbiol Spectr . Molecular Characterization of AZD7442 (Tixagevimab-Cilgavimab) Neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Subvariants

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  • Microbiol Spectr . Molecular Characterization of AZD7442 (Tixagevimab-Cilgavimab) Neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Subvariants


    Microbiol Spectr


    . 2023 Mar 6;e0033323.
    doi: 10.1128/spectrum.00333-23. Online ahead of print.
    Molecular Characterization of AZD7442 (Tixagevimab-Cilgavimab) Neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Subvariants


    Tiffany L Roe 1 , Tyler Brady 1 , Nicolette Schuko 1 , Amy Nguyen 1 , Jagadish Beloor 1 , Johnathan D Guest 2 , Anastasia A Aksyuk 1 , Kevin M Tuffy 1 , Tianhui Zhang 3 , Katie Streicher 1 , Elizabeth J Kelly 1 , Gustavo H Kijak 1



    Affiliations

    Abstract

    Therapeutic anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) provide immunosuppressed and vulnerable populations with prophylactic and treatment interventions against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). AZD7442 (tixagevimab-cilgavimab) is a combination of extended-half-life neutralizing MAbs that bind to distinct epitopes on the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The Omicron variant of concern carries mutations at >35 positions in the spike protein and has undergone further genetic diversification since its emergence in November 2021. Here, we characterize the in vitro neutralization activity of AZD7442 toward major viral subvariants circulating worldwide during the first 9 months of the Omicron wave. BA.2 and its derived subvariants showed the highest susceptibility to AZD7442, while BA.1 and BA.1.1 showed a lower susceptibility. BA.4/BA.5 had a susceptibility level intermediate between BA.1 and BA.2. Mutagenesis of parental Omicron subvariant spike proteins was performed to establish a molecular model to describe the underlying determinants of neutralization by AZD7442 and its component MAbs. The concurrent mutation of residues at positions 446 and 493, located in the tixagevimab and cilgavimab binding sites, was sufficient to enhance in vitro susceptibility of BA.1 to AZD7442 and its component MAbs to levels similar to the Wuhan-Hu-1+D614G virus. AZD7442 maintained neutralization activity against all Omicron subvariants tested up to and including BA.5. The evolving nature of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic warrants continuing real-time molecular surveillance and assessment of in vitro activity of MAbs used in prophylaxis against and the treatment of COVID-19. IMPORTANCE MAbs are key therapeutic options for COVID-19 prophylaxis and treatment in immunosuppressed and vulnerable populations. Due to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Omicron, it is vital to ensure that neutralization is maintained for MAb-based interventions. We studied the in vitro neutralization of AZD7442 (tixagevimab-cilgavimab), a cocktail of two long-acting MAbs targeting the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, toward Omicron subvariants circulating from November 2021 to July 2022. AZD7442 neutralized major Omicron subvariants up to and including BA.5. The mechanism of action responsible for the lower in vitro susceptibility of BA.1 to AZD7442 was investigated using in vitro mutagenesis and molecular modeling. A combination of mutations at two spike protein positions, namely, 446 and 493, was sufficient to enhance BA.1 susceptibility to AZD7442 to levels similar to the Wuhan-Hu-1+D614G ancestral virus. The evolving nature of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic warrants continuing real-time global molecular surveillance and mechanistic studies of therapeutic MAbs for COVID-19.

    Keywords: AZD7442; COVID-19; Omicron subvariants; SARS-CoV-2; cilgavimab; mechanism of action; monoclonal antibody; tixagevimab.

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